Cordoba cathedral in Spain is
situated inside a complex that used to be a mosque. The mosque
itself was built upon the remains of a church which had been
destroyed by the invading Moors. It is currently the subject of a
third attempt by Muslims to allow it to be used as an Islamic
place of worship.
The Christian church of St Vicente
was built by the Visigoths in the 5th century. The church was
built upon the site of a pagan temple to the Roman god Janus, the
deity of past and present, whose two faces simultaneously looked
back and forward. In 711, the church of St Vicente became used as
a mosque. The church was finally demolished in 786 by Abd al-Rahman
1, who used much of the church's materials in constructing a new
mosque. The mosque built by Rahman was expanded three times, with
the final enlargement made in 988 by Al-Mansur.
Al-Mansur was a despoiler of
Christian places of worship. He went to Santiago de Compostela,
and had his horse drink from the Cathedral there. He had the
massive bells of its Cathedral dragged from Santiago 500 miles to
Cordoba. Here the bells of Santiago were melted down to be made
into oil lamps for his pet project, the Cordoba mosque.
In 1236, Cordoba was conquered by
Ferdinand of Castile and was re-consecrated as a Christian site of
worship. Ferdinand III ordered that the oil lamps be transported
back to the shrine of St James at Santiago, where they were melted
down to become made into bells again.
Alfonso X built the Villaviciosa
Chapel inside the mosque complex using Moorish craftsmen, and the
Royal Chapel was built. In the 14th century, Enrique II had the
Royal Chapel (Capilla Real) rebuilt.
In 1523, it was decided by the
Catholic Church, supported by King Carlos V, to erect a cathedral
inside the center of the Cordoba mosque complex. An area of the
mosque was hollowed out and a cathedral nave was erected. This
became continually expanded with more elaborate features. Choir
stalls, built with mahogany from the New World, were carved by
Duque Correjo in the 18th century.
The Cathedral inside the mosque
complex (known as the Mezquita) is comparatively small, with only
places for 1,000 worshippers inside.
There are only 500 to 1,000 Muslims
in Cordoba, but the Mezquita has become a focus for political
Islam to force itself into a battle with the Catholic church. In
2002, Muslim women who tried to pray in the mosque complex were
thrown out. These were the first foot-soldiers in the political
In 2004, Muslim terrorists set off
bombs on trains in Madrid on March 11, killing 191 and injuring
1,700. Despite national revulsion at Islamic terrorism, the
political Muslims in Cordoba still made requests for their own
"space" at the Mezquita. In the same month that the mainly
Moroccan (Moorish) terrorists showed their contempt for Spanish
culture, a group calling itself Junta Islamica petitioned
Pope John Paul for permission to be given to Muslims to pray in
At the time, Mansur Escudero, the
secretary-general of the Spanish Islamic Commission stated that
allowing Muslims to pray at the Mezquita would be an important
gesture. He said: "In these difficult times, it could be an
important symbol for both Catholics and Muslims, an expression of
willingness to enter into dialogue. We're not trying to take the
Mezquita away from anyone, but simply open it up."
In April 2004, before the decision
by the Vatican was made, Zakarias Maza, director of the Taqwa
mosque in Granada
"We hope the Vatican will give a signal that it has a vision of
openness and dialogue. It would be good if there were a gesture of
tolerance on their part. Cordoba has been a symbol of the union of
three cultures for centuries. Even now, Jews and Muslims live
together with Christians in the neighbourhood around the mosque.
The church council doesn't seem to be open to dialogue."
The March 2004 request was not
greeted positively by the Catholic Church. Archbishop Michael
Fitzgerald, the Vatican's president of the Pontifical Council for
Interreligious Dialogue, said that the issue should be decided by
Cordoba's bishop. He added: "Muslims must accept history."
Archbishop Fitzgerald made some
observations. He said: "A general reflection is needed
here. As there are monumental buildings in Cordoba, there are also
others around the world which currently have a use different from
that of the original - like the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, now an
Islamic museum, despite pressure put on by some Muslims to use it
again as a mosque."
He mentioned that Pope John Paul had
visited the Umayad Mosque in Damascus and had prayed at the tomb
of John the Baptist. He noted that the then-Pope "did not ask to
celebrate Mass in the mosque."
He said: "It is difficult to have
Christians and Muslims mixing and sharing a common life. The
shared use of a building by various churches is problematic. There
are spaces dedicated to this purpose, for example, in airports.
But they are not churches or mosques. They are interfaith spaces,
capable of being used by Jews, Christians, Muslims and persons of
other faiths alike."
"But this is based on a type of
agreement to allow for their shared use. Yet this is not the
reality in Cordoba, where the building belongs to a specific
community. We want to live in peace with persons of other
religions. However, we don't want to be pushed, manipulated and go
against the very rules of our faith. If it is a Catholic chapel
with the Blessed Sacrament inside. It should not be used for
prayer services of another religious tradition."
One local priest, who did not wish
to be named,
"It's a reconquest. Through force, through geography, through
culture, they [the Muslims] are trying to take over."
The Madrid train bombings brought a
new consciousness to Spain's political life. Osama bin Laden, in a
made five months before the Madrid atrocities, stated that Muslims
must reform Al-Andalus. This was the name given to the Moorish
kingdom of which Cordoba was the capital. Its name survives in the
title of the province, Andalusia. Three days after the Madrid
bombs, a general election was held. The government of Spain was
replaced by the left-wing PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers' Party)
of Jos?? Luis Rodr??guez Zapotero.
In May of 2004, the bishop of
Santiago de Compostela removed from his cathedral a statue of St
James the "Moorslayer". In a climate of sudden appeasement,
created by Muslim terrorists, the bishop announced that he removed
the statue to avoid "offending the sensibilities of some
Isabel Romero, a Spanish convert to
Islam, directs the Halal Institute near Cordoba and is a member of
the Islamic Council of Spain. In 2004, she said: "We don't
recognize that the Muslims were from here, that they were
Andalusians too, that they are our roots. What remains from Al
Andalus are not just the Mezquita's stones, but our culture
itself. We have to reconcile ourselves with our history."
On the March request for Muslims to
be allowed prayer rights in the Mezquita, she said: "In no way is
this request about reclaiming our rights - far less any kind of
reconquest. Instead, we want to give our support to the universal
character of this building."
The issue of Cordoba's Mezquita has
become a political issue as much as a religious issue. Antonio
Hurtado, a spokesman for Andalusian socialists, said: "We hope to
see Cordoba become a place for the meeting of faiths."
Rosa Aguilar, mayor of Cordoba (from
the United Left - IU - party) was said to approve the Muslim
prayers being permitted in the Mezquita, but said that the time (a
month after the Madrid attacks) was not right for the council to
debate the issue.
Her deputy, Andres Ocoa said: "There
has been a series of meetings between the IU and the Islamic
Council to open up a dialogue between religions. In today's world,
we have to make every effort to maximize our knowledge of
different cultures to help us live together better."
Such attempts to impose socialist
idealism upon political Islam, which has no plans to allow any
mosques to be given over to Christian worship, were symptomatic of
the political correctness which overtook Spain in the aftermath of
Spain's premier, Jos?? Luis Rodr??guez
Zapotero, has tried to be at the forefront of a "dialoque of
cultures" between Islam and the West since 2005. His government in
March 2006, after the Danish cartoon protests, even collaborated
in a move to
the United Nations to make blasphemy against Islam a
"crime", with no corresponding attempt to make blasphemy against
Christianity a "crime".
Since the Reconquest of Spain from
the 800-year rule of the Moors, there have been traditions of
celebrating the departure of Muslim imperialists from the land.
These pageants are called Moros y Cristianos festivals. Yet across
Spain, the traditional spectacles of these pageants are being
deliberately altered, so as not to offend Spain's new
The Current Petitions
And now, once more, political Islam
in Spain is trying to assert itself. The trial of the Moorish
terrorists and their accomplices who attacked Madrid is due to
start in the New Year. On Tuesday
only a day after Spain celebrated Christmas, the birth of Christ,
Spain's Islamic Commission announced that it had decided to
petition the new Pope, Benedict XVI, to allow Muslim worship at
In December, a conference of Spain's
Catholic Bishops released a statement in which it said it "did not
recommend Muslims to pray in any way inside the Cathedral."
Mansur Escudero, secretary-general
of the Spanish Islamic Commission, complained that Muslim
worshippers at the Mezquita are still being prevented from
praying. He said: "There are reactionary elements within the
Catholic Church, and when they hear about the construction of a
mosque, or Muslim teachings in state schools, or about veils, they
see it as a sign we are growing and they oppose it."
The same group of Muslims led by
Mansur Escudero had written a letter to the socialist premier of
Spain, Jos?? Luis Rodr??guez Zapotero. In that
they stated: "What we wanted was not to take over that holy place,
but to create in it, together with you and other faiths, an
ecumenical space unique in the world which would have been of
great significance in bringing peace to humanity. We (Spanish
Muslims) would like to share with you (the Catholic community) a
prayer, that could serve to awaken the conscience of Christians
and Muslims and prove that it is possible to bury past
The letter made reference to Pope
Benedict's recent visit to Turkey, and how the Pope had prayed in
the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.
While Muslims are seeking to exploit
the issue of the Mezquita to their own political advantage, there
are also plans to build a giant mosque in Cordoba, plans announced
The proposal has been backed by Saudi Arabia and other countries.
First put forward in 2003 and again in 2005, the request was
turned down by Cordoba City Council.
The group behind this proposal is
the same Islamic Commission which is trying to undermine the
Catholicism being practiced at the Mezquita in Cordoba. As well as
planning to build a giant mosque, it also wants to erect a
"multi-purpose center" in the city, near its headquarters and also
the al-Morabito mosque.
With all the complaints by Cordoba's
Muslims (who number no more than 1,000) that there are not enough
places where they can worship, Andalusia already has 100 mosques.